Price of life-saving cancer medication slashed from thousands to under $40

Patients with certain forms of cancer including leukaemia, bowel cancer and ovarian cancer will save as much as $100,000 a year when life-saving medication is added to the PBS on Saturday. Source: Pixabay

Thousands of Australian cancer patients in need of life-saving medication and treatment will be better off from Saturday, when five new cancer listings will be made available on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS).

The new listings follow a $100 million investment from the government and will save eligible patients with certain forms of leukaemia, advanced tumours of the intestine and pancreas, melanoma, bowel cancer and ovarian cancer as much as $100,000 a year. Instead, patients will now pay $39.50 per script or $6.40 if they are on a concession.

For 200 people living with acute myeloid leukaemia, they will be given access to Rydapt (midostaurin), which typically costs $30,000 per year. This is great news, especially because the cancer has one of the lowest survival rates of all adult leaukaemias.

The oral, targeted therapy works by interrupting a cancer cells’ ability to grow and multiply and will be made available to acute myeloid leukaemia patients with the specific FLT3 genetic mutation.

Meanwhile, the current listing of Somatuline Autogel (lanreotide) will be extended to include patients with non-functional gastroentero-pancreatic neuroendocrine tumours. These are advanced tumours of both the intestine and pancreas and the medication works by controlling the growth of advanced tumours. Up to 760 patients a year will now have access to Somatuline Autogel, which cost $23,000 a year without the PBS subsidy.

For patients with unresectable malignant melanoma (skin cancers that have spread locally and can’t be removed with surgery), Opdivo (nivolumab) and Tervoy (ipilimumab) will be available. At present, 800 patients per year access ipilimumab alone, but health experts believe it would be more effective for patients to use both drugs. Without subsidy, patients would be paying more than $100,000 per course of treatment.

Lonsurf (trifluridine with tipiracil), which would normally cost $6,000 for patients with bowel cancer that has spread to other parts of the body, is also being made available. It will benefit 885 patients a year and works by slowing down the growth and spread of cancer cells.

Lynparza (olaparib), a drug used for high-grade serious ovarian, fallopian tube and primary peritoneal cancer, is being amended to allow to subsidy of a new tablet that will significantly reduce the pill burden compared to the current capsule listen. Rather than taking 16 tablets a day, patients will now take four.

More than 200 women a year will benefit by taking the medication that inhibits the growth and spread of cancer cells and will no longer be paying $90,000 a year.

Read more: Price of popular eye medication slashed from thousands to under $40

The latest announcement follows an array of other life-changing medication that have been made available through the PBS this year, including medication for the eyes, high blood pressure and epilepsy, as well as medication to treat arthritis, diabetes and asthma.

Is enough being done to keep the cost of life-saving medication down? Do you know someone who will benefit from these changes?

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